Authorities on Friday released camera footage of the chaotic scenes that preceded the fatal shooting by law enforcement personnel of a woman who attacked them with a kitchen knife.
The woman, Yan Li, was struck repeatedly by gunfire when three San Diego County sheriff’s deputies and an officer with the San Diego Police Department opened fire on the fifth floor of a condominium complex in the 400 block of West Beech Street on March 3, SDPD Lt. Matt Dobbs said.
The body-worn footage, from the three deputies and the police officer, captured Li, 47, as she stabbed one officer during an attempt to evict her from her Little Italy condo. She died at the scene.
The SDPD canine unit officer – officials have not released his name – who suffered the wound was treated at a trauma center and released the same day.
The footage released by the Sheriff’s Department shows Court Services Deputy Jason Bunch serving Li with eviction papers.
She accepts the notice, but when Bunch spots what appears to be a meat cleaver in Li’s right hand, he draws his firearm and orders her “to put your knife down. Put the … knife down.”
Li yells back, in heavily accented English, apparently concerned the deputy might be an intruder. Despite Bunch’s continued orders – though at times he mistakenly tells her to “put the gun down” – she maintains her hold on the knife and asks for someone to “call the police.”
“You will get shot, if you come at me with that knife, I will shoot you,” Bunch warns Li after he uses his radio to call for backup. When she continues to yell, he repeats his instruction about the knife, telling her “drop the knife please, don’t make me do this.”
At that point Li, yelling about “fake police,” hurls the eviction documents into the hallway and slams her front door. She still held the knife.
According to captions on the video, the condo’s manager and a maintenance worker accused Li of threatening them with a knife the day before when they entered her home for a plumbing repair. That report, according to Sheriff’s officials, presented them with “probable cause” to arrest Li for on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
When the video resumes, still from Bunch’s perspective, authorities have entered Li’s unit with guns drawn, finding her in a bedroom peering out from behind a door. When they begin to order her to come out with her hands up, she screams at them and refused to comply.
Moments later, after an officer fired repeated rounds from a beanbag shotgun, Li charges out into the main living area of the condominium with a large kitchen knife in her hand, prompting the personnel to back out of the residence.
At her front doorway, Li thrusts the knife at the law enforcement personnel, stabbing the officer handling his dog.
At that point, SDPD Officer Rogelio Medina, sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Nickel and Deputies Javier Medina and David Williams open fire on Li, discharging at least a dozen rounds. She collapses, bloodied, onto the hallway floor. The wounded officer shouts, “Ah, (expletive), I got stabbed!”
The footage includes video from cameras worn by Rogelio Medina, Nickel and Williams.
SDPD homicide detectives are investigating Li’s death, standard protocol in cases involving law enforcement shootings.
Medina, a member of the SDPD Canine Unit, has been with the department for 13 years. Nickel has been employed by the Sheriff’s Department for 29 years, Medina for 23 years and Williams for 14 years.
All four have been placed on desk duty pending investigations into the shooting. Temporary reassignments following incidents of lethal police force also are routine.
– From staff and wire reports
Note: Photo credit – Body-worn camera footage shows Yan Li lunging forward with a knife just before being shot by three deputies and a SDPD officer. Screen shot, San Diego County Sheriff, via Vimeo